You can feel it. Something is not right.
Your boss is acting…um, weird!
They’re not the same as when you first interviewed with them. Or, they seemed like a great leader during the interview process, you built rapport during onboarding, you were doing well but then, all of a sudden, their behaviour towards you changed.
I know how this story goes down, not because I’ve been the leader that has targeted someone. Since operating michelfalcon.com, writing blog posts and producing videos, I’ve had many people ask for advice on how to manage a relationship with their manager.
More often than not, after they describe their leader’s behaviours and actions I sense that they are on the path to getting fired.
Who knows, it very well could be warranted.
But, whether it’s warranted or not, there is a certain way to coach, uplift, and lead and then there are the following five ways that will tell you that you’re being targeted.
Not all hope is lost. You can turn this around if you follow the recommendations outlined in this blog post.
Please note, that I believe the five ways I will outline below are a cowardly way of managing someone. After all, someone’s livelihood and career is being played with if you were to lead this way.
I’ve invited my friend Rhys Green to contribute the “and what to do about it” part of the blog post that we will call The Response.
Rhys is CEO of Trailblaze Partners, a service operations consulting company based out of Vancouver BC. Before that he spent 10 years with 1-800-Got-Junk? leading teams and working on the operational challenges that come from fast growth.
They Cancel (or Don’t Show Up For) Recurring Meetings
I’ve never met a great leader that didn’t regularly meet with their direct reports. A leadership tactic that I learned during my time at 1-800-GOT-JUNK? was something called Goal Setting & Review (GS&R).
Every week, there would be a recurring scheduled meeting on the leader and team member’s calendar in perpetuity. For example, I remember when I reported into someone named Simon, our GS&R was scheduled for Tuesday at 1:00 pm (this was ten years ago, don’t ever tell me something you want me to forget because my memory is undefeated). As the title of the meeting suggests, during this time together we would review our goals and how we were trending toward them with other dialogue to support the meeting too.
Whether it’s a GS&R or some other regularly scheduled meeting, if your manager is continuously canceling or rescheduling your meeting then something is not right. If your leader responds with,
“Oh, sorry. I’m so busy.”
Remember that everyone has the same hours in the day and that you make time for things that are important to you. These meetings are for your professional development which is why, if I was your leader, my hair would literally have to be on fire for me to cancel our time together.
I will kick it over to Rhys to share his best practices on how to manage if this is happening to you.
Direct and honest communication wins the war here. The next time you are able to get a one on one meeting with your leader, give them a heads up in advance that you’d like to talk about your professional development and performance. Use an I statement like “I feel like my development and performance aren’t important (replace this with however you actually feel about it) when you change or cancel my one-on-one meetings.” This should open up the opportunity to have a really good conversation about where you stand.
Their Demeanor Changes
It seems like ages ago when you and your manager interviewed each other, it appeared you shared the same values, you even shared a laugh or two. During your onboarding, they seem very invested in you, your development and, ultimately, your well-being. Yes, that seems like 100 years ago.
Today, you noticed they rolled their eyes after you suggested a solution to a challenge the company was faced with.
They completely ignored your commentary during the off-site team meeting and moved the conversation in another direction.
They used to respond with “Yes, Emily I have a few minutes” when you would ask him a question. Now, they respond with “What!?”
These verbal cues should have you wondering if you have done something wrong or something that upset your manager.
I’d hit this one with empathy. It may not actually be you that has caused the change, but if it is you definitely want to know. I’m a big fan of the heads up, so give your leader the heads up that you want to have a conversation about how you’re working together. Start the conversation out by highlighting the behaviour change you’ve noticed (use examples) and asking if there is something going on that you’re not seeing. Are they having a hard time at home, is their leader giving them the gears? You’ll pretty quickly figure out what’s going on with this approach and it will serve to build the relationship by trying to understand.
They Abruptly Start Micro Managing
I’ve actually heard this before,
“We needed to expedite their exit, so we caught them doing things wrong quickly.”
Damn! That’s malicious. That’s poor leadership! Those are a lot of things I don’t like.
Remember when you would go home and speak to your spouse or tell your friend that one of the reasons you loved your new job was because your manager didn’t breathe down your neck? You had the freedom to do great work! Sure, you made a mistake here and there but your leader would coach you and you learned from missteps.
Yeah, those days are over. Now, it seems like everything you do is received with criticism. You even were blamed for something you didn’t do. Your manager recognized the mistake but never apologized.
If these things are happening then it’s likely that your manager is targeting you.
What a terrible feeling! One minute you feel like you’re crushing and have so much autonomy the next you can’t do anything right. For this one I’d over-communicate. If your boss is asking for an update once a day I’d give them two. While this could be that you are being targeted, it may also be just that your boss is stressed now, where they weren’t before and so their more natural behaviours are showing. Either way, more documentation will help you if you do end up getting terminated.
They Exclude You From Decisions, Meetings and More
You used to be included in key decisions and meetings that impacted your department and company. You felt a sense of pride that your manager was entrusting you and valued your opinion.
But, all of a sudden, you stopped being included in these meetings. One day, you walked to the office kitchen area to refill your cup of coffee and noticed that a meeting that you’re regularly invited to is being hosted. You check your calendar on your phone to see if you happened to miss something on your calendar but, no, there’s nothing scheduled.
This is something I wouldn’t immediately concern yourself with because these meetings may now have an agenda that is too sensitive to be discussed with you right now. However, I would make note of this.
At your next one-on-one (assuming they’re still happening) just ask the question. Hey Boss, I saw the weekly management meeting happened without me this week, has something changed that I should know about? As with all of these remember there is often not an ulterior motive behind this type of change. Your boss could very easily have been trying to get you some time back in your day and save you from an irrelevant meeting.
Your Responsibilities Start to Diminish
As the newest member of your company’s sales team, you listened attentively during training and sooner than later you started receiving inbound sales leads to manage. You even closed a few leads and other team members started to congratulate you. The better you did the more leads you were closing. You were doing very well! Sure, there were others doing better but they had been at the company for much longer.
Suddenly, the inbound leads you were getting or the marketing tasks you were ordinarily responsible for weren’t being assigned to you. At first, you ignored it but made note but now it seems like your days aren’t filled with as many responsibilities as they use to.
Something’s not right.
You can feel it in the pit of your stomach…
You’ll notice I generally like the direct communication route. This one is no different. Talk to your leader and let them know how you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way. If you don’t find their answer to be genuine and reassuring, speak to HR or ask for a skip level. Changing your job significantly without you agreeing to it is a big deal and one you should address as soon as you notice. Follow up on your conversations in writing.
The best course of action is always open communication, however, you should also be keeping your options open. Make sure you know what the market is for your skillset, who the top employers are and take note of when they’re hiring for someone like you. The impact of all of these behaviours on your mental state can be really damaging and it can be amplified if you feel like you don’t have an option to go somewhere else. There is always an option, it’s on you if you don’t know what it is and how to get it.
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